Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Creating The Threat And Believing In It

Every so often there are snippets of insight that come out by way of faithful investigators following a story for the long haul. Even items that are weeks, months, or years old bear covering if the story leads there.

By way of the Cunning Realist from Andrew Sullivan, we have a review of Ron Suskind's book The One Percent Doctrine by Barton Gellman.

In the book it is put forward that the Administration puffed up the resume of captured al Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah. What was thought to be a top leader of the secretive terrorist organization may actually have been a mentally unstable member who was given primary duties of assisting members in moving people around such as wives and families of al Qaeda members. It was also known that his diary was written in the voice of three separate people. Not quite stable.

After his case was presented as such to top Administration officials, they continued with the theme that this was a top official of bin Laden's inner circle. President Bush alluded to Zubaydah as the "chief operating operator". Not to be shown up, the Vice President brought Abu back out in December of 2002, saying:
"...we've captured or killed many key leaders within the al Qaeda organization. These include Abu Zubaydah, bin Laden's chief of operations, who was seized last March in Pakistan and has been providing valuable information to U.S. interrogators".

Suskind puts forward that after it was known that Zubaydah wasn't as critical a piece of the terrorist network as was thought, steps were taken to add some pressure to his interrogation.

From the Washington Post review:
Which brings us back to the unbalanced Abu Zubaydah. "I said he was important," Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. "You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?" "No sir, Mr. President," Tenet replied. Bush "was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth," Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, "Do some of these harsh methods really work?" Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports. They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety -- against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, "thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target." And so, Suskind writes, "the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered."

To be fair, this was an Administration that in 2002 was still preoccupied with hunting down al Qaeda and their techniques were quite unpolished. They were also still contemplating if torturing suspects was legal.

If the story bears out to be true, is there still a question as to whether the Administration will use any device possible to convince citizens that they are protecting the country?

No comments: